Big Bang Intelligent Design

Why does anyone care what Buddhist or Hindu philosophy says about the Big Bang?

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This image represents the evolution of the Universe, starting with the Big Bang. The red arrow marks the flow of time.
Big Bang/NASA

If they are not Buddhist or Hindu. From Zeeya Merali at Aeon:

The discussion has gone on ever since. I partook in 2014, while researching my book, A Big Bang in a Little Room (2017), about experiments on recreating the origins of the Universe in the lab. Not only did I meet with Ashtekar at Penn State but also with his kindred spirit, the cosmologist Andrei Linde, at Stanford University in California. Linde had just returned from giving a series of guest lectures at the University of Hamburg in Germany on the philosophical implications of ‘quantum cosmology’, the discipline that applies the rules governing the micro realm – quantum theory – to the study of how the Universe evolved in its infancy, when it was still growing from a tiny seed.

‘The climate was to ignore religion, so I was, with my strange philosophy, the most religious person around’

In those talks, Linde had pointed to a harmony between cosmology and the ancient Hindu philosophical school Advaita Vedanta, which posits a unity between the eternal cosmos and the self. Specifically, he found resonance between Advaita Vedanta and theories developed by modern physicists to explain why time’s arrow points in one direction, inexorably marching us from cradle to grave. Ashtekar, independently, was challenging the conventional view that our cosmos was born at the Big Bang, replacing it with a model of an eternal universe that once contracted and is now expanding again. He even began to ponder whether it might be possible to construct a scientific model aligned with non-Western philosophies, in which individual human consciousnesses are embedded in a larger communal consciousness that pervades the Universe.

Nobody is suggesting that progress in physics will be found by mining ancient Hindu scriptures directly for inspiration. Nor, indeed, that scholars of the Advaita Vedanta had some privileged insight into scientific truths. Yet, curious resonances between the philosophical ideas read in one’s youth, and theoretical speculations that arise from the physics of today can sometimes make the latter seem more compelling. Perhaps that is why Linde was more intuitively drawn to Page and Wootters’s solution to the problem of time than to Hawking’s.More.

If we aren’t suggesting it, why bring it up? In any event, one could say the same for the Judaeo-Christian tradition but what happens if we try to discuss that?

If it doesn’t matter what Jewish, Christian, or Muslim philosophy might say about the Big Bang, why does it matter what Hindu or Buddhist philosophy says about it? Either the Big Bang can be treated as a fact or it can’t. This all sounds like an effort to wish a “pre-Big Bang” into existence, calling on religion to help.

Note: For the record, Linde is an atheist.

See also: Does the beginning of the universe require a cause?

At RealClearScience: Anti-religious feelings hindered acceptance of the Big Bang


The Big Bang: Put simply,the facts are wrong.

12 Replies to “Why does anyone care what Buddhist or Hindu philosophy says about the Big Bang?

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    This all sounds like an effort to wish a “pre-Big Bang” into existence, calling on religion to help.

    Yes, an eternal universe, karmic law, incarnation, polytheism, communal consciousness, pantheism … any or all of the above might help.

    Nobody is suggesting that progress in physics will be found by mining ancient Hindu scriptures directly for inspiration.

    Of course. Nobody would suggest such a thing in an article about how to construct a scientific model of physics aligned with Hindu philosophy.

  2. 2
    tarmaras says:

    On this subject, there are ideas (or intuitions) from Indian philosophy which could potentially be useful for a new science where meaning and intentionality are taken into account Indian thinker Ashish Dalela has been presenting some suggestions in his books and on his blogs for a few years. He calls this — he calls it a theory of the observer.

    For those interested, here is the Amazon book description from his work Sankhya and Science — Applications of Vedic Philosophy to Modern Science:

    “Why the Observer Needs a Central Place in Science

    The dominantly materialist outlook of modern science leaves a lot unexplained. This includes the nature of sensation, concepts, beliefs and judgments, and an understanding of morality. Science was developed by evicting all aspects of the subject from its theories, and this has now become a hindrance in the scientific study of the observer.

    Does the eviction of subjective qualities only impact the understanding of the subject, or does it also affect the understanding of matter within science? The dominant belief today is that the current view of matter is nearly final and mind and consciousness will be soon explained based on it.

    Sankhya and Science argues to the contrary. The nature of material objects if they are created and perceived by conscious beings is different than if they are independent of consciousness. If objects are created and perceived by conscious beings, they should be described as symbols of meanings rather than as meaningless things.

    Questions Tackled in This Book

    First, the author discusses a wide variety of problems in modern science, including mathematics, computing, physics, chemistry, biology and neuroscience and how they cannot be solved in the materialistic view.Then, the author offers the alternative view of matter based on Sankhya philosophy—meanings in consciousness are reflected in matter to create symbols of meaning. Now, to know all aspects of matter we need to understand all aspects of the observer, otherwise the theory of matter is incomplete.

    Mind and Matter Integrated into a Semantic Science

    The book connects a semantic view of matter to the problems of indeterminism and uncertainty in quantum physics, the problem of meaning in computing theory, the nature of information in chemistry and biology, and the problem of sensation and cognition in psychology and neuroscience.

    Unlike in modern science, where meaning and information are emergent properties of physical objects, in Sankhya, objects are created when the mind transfers meanings into space-time. The reader will see how mind and matter can be integrated without stepping outside the rational-empirical approach to science. Moreover, this integration can engender new kinds of empirical theories, better able to explain phenomena currently lying outside the reach of science.

    This deeper understanding of mind and matter also builds up the conceptual framework for understanding other complex topics such as Vedic Cosmology (popularized by Hinduism), philosophy of religion, meditation, mantras, prana, reincarnation and karma. The book illustrates how the choices of consciousness are first converted into meanings in the mind, which are then converted into energy, which is then converted into material objects through incremental steps.

    By the end of the book, the author builds a new approach to doing science. This paradigm will be able to explain more phenomena than current theories, and will solve the problems of indeterminism, uncertainty and incompleteness which plague current sciences.

    How Is This book Different?

    Most people drawing parallels between science and Eastern philosophy end up claiming that the Eastern mystics knew thousands of years back what modern science discovered only recently. This conclusion may be satisfying as a bridge between science and religion, but it is ultimately futile—if the mystical viewpoint is similar to the materialist view then why do we still need mysticism?

    Instead of parallels, this book offers a contrarian view of matter and science. It hopes to show that current science and mysticism are not convergent (although a new science and mysticism could be). The convergence requires not faith but an evolution of science itself. This approach is interesting because it tells us that the convergence will be rational rather than a matter of faith.”

  3. 3
    Silver Asiatic says:

    ID is successful and works within what you’re referring to as modern science. ID just uses ordinary scientific methods to observe reality and to draw convincing conclusions from the data. It does not require a new or different science.

    Some IDists believe that modern science has to change, but that’s a different issue. Science does not need to change in order to show the validity of ID. ID shows that intelligent design is the only known source for the complex functional information found in nature.

    I don’t know if ID would work in an entierly different scientific paradigm. At the same time, ID is not really necessary in a scientific program that includes the idea that intelligence or consciousness is a causal factor in nature. In other words, if that idea is already accepted by faith and a new science is built around it, then there’s no need to prove it. That is just one of the first principles.

    It would be similar to Creation Science of old that used the Bible as a source for scientific study. It’s a different kind of science.

  4. 4
    groovamos says:

    A mainstream doctrine of Buddhism is an eternal universe with no beginning. To his credit the Dalai Lama admits that Buddhism may have to abandon the doctrine with growing support for the Big Bang in the scientific community.

    In case you are wondering, and are also NOT a student of Vedanta, consider that many physicists have been over the last century. So you can ask them if and or why it meshes better with modern physics than does Judaism/Christianity. My guess and this may be overly simplistic: Christianity (i.e. mainstream) with an overemphasis on sin, probably smashes down some of the power of cosmology from philosophical reasoning. At any rate you can read about those guys here:

  5. 5
    News says:

    No disrespect is meant here to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of philosophy. What some of us want is clarity about whether all mature philosophical traditions of ultimately religious origin are to be given consideration or only those ones. And if only those ones, why?

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    This all sounds like an effort to wish a “pre-Big Bang” into existence, calling on religion to help

    You don’t need religion. If there had ever been truly nothing at all, there would still be nothing at all since you can’t get something out of nothing. From that it follows that since there is something – in fact, a whole lot of something – there must always have been something, even “pre-Big Bang”.

  7. 7
    EDTA says:

    >From that it follows that since there is something…there must always have been something, even “pre-Big Bang”.

    But doesn’t the eternal existence of something (rather than nothing) call for an explanation? And wouldn’t it have to be one that goes outside that something?

  8. 8
    groovamos says:

    News: And if only those ones, why

    I don’t know what kind of answer would sataisfy here. I gave a guess, which may be one aspect, did that not help a little?

    OK here’s another one: the eastern religions appear to have a larger proportion of adherents who are oriented towards the mystical world view, than Christianity. And the mystical interpretations of these traditions are what get translated into the western languages- as opposed to the dogmatic and superstitious elements.

    I was raised Baptist myself before becoming an atheist in (where else) university and it was the Vedantic literature that blew materialism to bits for me. I can attest that I never think of “sin” in the way I was taught as a Baptist, and to revert to that would be a backwards move, as it does interfere with the mystical sensibility. I don’t say sin doesn’t exist, but I’m more inclined to see my own forward progress as an opening to a destruction of delusional views of the self which are wrong, destructive and ego supportive and even involving evil discarnate entities described in the Western traditions. So my own experience here is a testament to the ultimate dead end regarding some of the things promoted in the church regarding sin. And which are counterproductive to a sense of the mytical universal order.

    So if you cannot imagine it, just consider that the physicists are mostly more interested in mysticism than dogma.

  9. 9
    tarmaras says:

    >whether all mature philosophical traditions of ultimately religious origin are to be given consideration or only those ones. And if only those ones, why?

    I for one don’t understand why NOT to give consideration to everything that can be useful in evolving knowledge to a next level of understanding. Who cares where it comes from? Humans are humans everywhere and (I believe) all traditions have come into contact with some form of divinity or other and they all had wise thinkers come up with various philosophies that built on that. Even day to day intuitions are fair game.

    I’m personally fond of how Ashish Dalela is doing it, using both insights from ancient Vedic sources and day to day intuitions to propose ways to solve some outstanding issues in mathematics, physics and other sciences.

    For instance, in this post he talks about Vedic theories of God and the soul in the context of discussions of quantum phenomena, free will and mathematics.

    But I wouldn’t be against somebody else using totally different philosophies to address those issues.

    For instance ID as a theory has to at some point speak about the fact that if the world is created, then the objects in the world (organic and inorganic) must be looked as as symbols of meaning (pre-creation ideas). This is exactly what Vedic Sankhya is talking about but that doesn’t mean it can’t come from a Western philosophy as well, like some form of aristotelian platonism.

  10. 10
    ScuzzaMan says:

    To his credit the Dalai Lama admits that Buddhism may have to abandon the doctrine with growing support for the Big Bang in the scientific community.

    Why is this to his credit?

    When everyone believe something is, based on the historical evidence, the very moment it is ready to be overturned for something completely different.

    For example, the Big Bang hinges not on the CMB but on the Hubble relation between distance and red-shift.

    If that goes then the Big Bang is dead and everything is up for grabs.


  11. 11
    News says:

    Seversky at 6, the critical question is whether the universe before the Big Bang lies outside science. Persistent efforts to involve philosophy suggest that it does. “Nothing comes from nothing” is, on that view, a post-Big Bang precept.

    It’s the same principle as with claims about a multiverse for which there is no evidence. For all I know there could be one but the speculation does not sound like science.

  12. 12
    groovamos says:

    Seversky: there must always have been something, even “pre-Big Bang”.

    Interesting non-scientific philosophizing there – over something science will never be able to address – a situation which is the license to philosophizing. Oddly science only exists in people’s minds and “always” only can go back to the Big Bang. So attempts to describe or philosophize about what exists independent of time (logically not ‘before’ or ‘outside’ of time) necessarily requires reference to the supernatural category without any chance of of comprehensively understanding it.

    BTW I’m going to discount what was said in the above link I supplied, in regards to what was referenced about Carl Sagan and Nikola Tesla. The materialist Sagan is known to have been hostile to anything remotely mystical or outside everyday normal consciousness (read about his encounter with Stan Grof detailed in Grof’s “When The Impossible Happens”). What was said about Tesla there was very shaky and probably due to a kind of Tesla cult that exists because of the guy’s weaknesses and a widespread belief in conspiracies against him (which I admit have been aggravated by George Westinghouse ripping him off). I note a lack of quotes from these two compared to quotes from the physicists preceding which seem valid.

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